Explore some of Europe’s finest cities before retreating to an urban spa hotel. Our writers pick their favourite hideouts amid the metropolitan bustle.
Inspira Santa Marta Hotel, Lisbon
Beyond the carefully restored 18th-century facade of this Lisbon boutique hotel, you’ll find a radical and roomy reinterpretation of four buildings. This vast, open-plan space, home to the hotel’s bar, reception and restaurant, comes with cool contemporary design — plenty of reclaimed wood, granite and glass, offset by bold, retro soft furnishings — unified by a soaring atrium, sliced through with a dramatic staircase. At the top of this staircase to seemingly nowhere, you’ll find a discreet door to the spa. The five elements of Chinese philosophy feng shui (water, earth, wood, fire and metal) inform the design here, and in the rest of the hotel, plus guests can request a room that reflects their birth sign.
Inspira has a rigorous eco policy. Noted for its work in environmental and social responsibility, it was shortlisted in National Geographic’s 2015 Legacy Awards, in the Earth Changers category. Its restaurant aims to keep as close to a ‘zero-kilometre’ food policy as possible, offers a wide range of gluten-free items (rare in Portugal), and filters/bottles its own water. From spa to bar, the hotel’s whole team is involved in monitoring energy systems, supply chain and support for local and global community projects. The net result of all this: it won Best Sustainable Hotel in Portugal in the 2013/14 International Hotel Awards…
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Hotel Arts, Barcelona
The porter beamed at us as he ushered us into the lift, chatting enthusiastically about the spa. This was to be the first of three lifts that took us up to the 43rd floor of the Ritz-Carlton’s Hotel Arts, home to the aptly named Spa 43. After the final ascent, the doors opened to reveal a reception area decorated in creamy concrete. The light stone gave off both a neutral glow and a cool temperature, which was much appreciated after the balmy streets of Barcelona below.
We were here for a city break but the heady mix of scorching summer temperatures and late-night Catalonian culture had left us feeling a little weary and in need of pampering.
The changing rooms, where we slipped into our white waffle gowns and slippers, were a sumptuous contrast of dark woods and cream furnishings, with a floor-to-ceiling window offering fantastic views across the city and the beach below. We suddenly understood the porter’s earlier excitement. This was no ordinary spa…
Four Seasons, Budapest
“Just a bit more and we should be able to get rid of these knots,” my therapist says, while kneading my shoulder muscles to sleep. I wasn’t expecting them to be targeted during an Omorovicza facial treatment, but as with everything else during my stay at Four Seasons Budapest, attention was paid to every detail to make life a little more comfortable.
My back had been scrubbed and I was now experiencing one of the best massages I’ve ever had during the 90-minute treatment. Once my knots had fizzled away under the pressure, my face and neck were scrubbed before being covered in a mud mask. Omorovicza products are used throughout, with ingredients extracted from Hungary’s Lake Heviz, the second largest thermal lake in the world. One of the signature ingredients in the products, Moor Mud, is mineral-rich and renowned for its curative properties…